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"The 'Pillars' Added Nothing!"
Galatians 2:1-10

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
July 27, 2005

In chapter one, Paul had to defend that his gospel was not something that he had invented, but that it was a message given to him by God. Now in chapter two, he argues that, though it was given to him by God, it was nevertheless in concert with what was being preached by the other apostles.

The background for this passage is something that is much debated. Some have argued that, because "a revelation" is mentioned, the background for this must be Acts 11:27-30. But it seems best to see Acts 15:1-34 as the background passage. As William Hendrickson notes (with some adaptation here; see his Exposition of Galatians [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968]. p. 107): (1) both accounts answer the same big question: "Is Christ alone sufficient for our salvation?"; (2) Both make reference to the same main characters: Peter, Barnabas, Paul and James (Acts 15:7, 12, 13); (3) In both, Paul and Barnabas set forth to them the matters of their ministry to the Gentiles: in Acts, the signs that accompanied the message to the Gentiles; and in Galatians, the message itself; (4) In both, the opposition of the Judaizers are prominent (cf. Acts 15:5); (5) In both accounts, there is - in the end - no yielding to the Judaizers (cf. Acts 15:8-19); and (6) There is no disagreement, but rather, the extending of the hand from the Jerusalem leaders to Paul and Barnabas. The parallels are strongly supportive of Acts 15 being the background for Galatians 2:1-10.


A. Paul went up to Jerusalem again after fourteen years (that is, fourteen years after his conversion). He went with Barnabas and also took Titus.

1. Barnabas was important to be with, because he was Paul's Jewish superior in ministry. He would be very important to have as a representative of the Jewish support of his gospel message.

2. He also took Titus, who was important to bring because he was an uncircumsiced Gentile (v. 3) and was clearly a believer.

B. Paul's expressed reason for going was to 'communicate' (anatithămi; to lay before) the Jerusalem leaders the gospel which he preached.

1. He didn't do this because he was called to do so. Rather, he did it "by" or "because of a revelation". We don't know what this revelation may have been. Whatever it was, it was clearly from God; and Paul faithfully obeyed it. This shows that he was not seeking approval from the leaders; but was acting under the authority of Christ directly.

2. He presented to them the gospel that he was then preaching. He uses the present tense of the verb, indicating that it was the gospel that he was currently preaching and had been preaching for the past fourteen years. He was not now seeking any revisions for it; nor would he accept any (cf. 1:11-12).

3. If Acts 15 is the background, then he perhaps presented the signs that accompanied his preaching publically, but presented the message privately to "those who were of reputation".

a. He is not speaking derisively here of those who were of "reputation". He is simply responding to the accusation of the Judiazers; who were comparing him (who was, in their mind, of no reputation) with the other apostles (who were, in their mind, of reputation).

b. His motivation for speaking to them privately was "lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain" (see Phil. 2:16). His message didn't need the verification of the Jerusalem leaders in order to be valid; because he received it directly from Christ. But his preaching would not succeed in its ministry to the Gentiles if he did not have the cooperation of Jerusalem. Having that cooperation - especially as we see it in Acts 15 - would greatly enhance the success of his ministry. It may, too, be that he wished to meet with them privately, because he didn't want to have the Judaizers interfering with his meeting with them.

C. There wouldn't have even been a need to do this if it weren't for the fact that "false brethren" snuck in to "spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage". Paul made it clear that he didn't yeld submission to them even for an hour, "that the truth of the gospel might remain (that is, in a permanent way) with" the Gentile believers. Love demands strong stance for the gospel!

D. One demonstration of his support was the fact that Titus, who was a believing Gentile, was not required by them to be circumcised.


A. Paul honored the Jerusalem leaders; but not in the sense that he was dependent upon them for the validation of his message. He said that what they were made no difference to him - that is, in respect to his call to preach; since God shows favoritism to no man.

B. But he reports that in no respect did they add anything to his message. On the contrary, they extended the hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas.

1. They recognized that the gospel for the uncircumcised (i.e., the Gentile) had been committed to Paul and Barnabas by God; and that the gospel for the circumcised (i.e., to the Jews) had been committed to Peter. There was not two "gospels" being presented here; only one gospel with two different strategies of presentation (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

2. The same Holy Spirit who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the Jews also worked effectively in Paul for the apostleship to the Gentiles.

C. The only thing that they added was that Paul and Barnabas, in their ministry, remember the needs of the poor; which Paul and Barnabas were "eager to do". Even in that, they didn't really add anything to Paul's ministry.

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul's manner in presenting his gospel to the Jerusalem leaders - especially in the face of Judaistic opposition - reminds us that we must be willing to take up the fight and defend the gospel of liberty in Christ. We should never be "proud" when it comes to "love" and seek our own way selfishly. In fact, should be willing to give up everything when love demands that we do so. But while we are to make all the allowances for love that we can, we must never compromise on the matter of the "faith".

When it comes to those who call us to "set aside pride" and "compromise" the faith, let these words from Luther be ours: "Be it far from us that we should here humble ourselves, since they would take from us our glory, even God himself that hath created us and given us all things, and Jesus Christ who hath redeemed us with his blood. Let this be then the conclusion of all together, that we will suffer our goods to be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have; but the Gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never suffer to be wrested from us. And cursed be that humility which here abaseth and submitteth itself. Nay rather let every Christian man here be proud and spare not, except he will deny Christ.

"Wherefore, God assisting me, my forehead shall be more hard than all men's foreheads. Here I take upon me this title, according to the proverb: cedo nulli, I give place to none. Yea, I am glad even with all my heart, in this point to seem rebellious and obstinate. And I here I confess that I am and ever will be stout and stern, and will not one inch give place to any creature. Charity giveth place, for it 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things' (1 Cor. 13:7), but faith giveth no place, yea it can suffer nothing . . . Wherefore, a Christian, as touching his faith, can never be too proud nor too stout, neither must he relent or give place, no, not the breadth of one hair . . ." (from Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians on Galatians [Westood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1953] p. 108).

May God give us a "holy unreasonableness" when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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